Opening night review of Lizzie Darcy & Jane by Joanna Norland

by Helen Rigby

This entertaining play by Joanna Norland is set in Jane Austen’s world, both real and fictional. It’s 1796, and the young, beautiful Jane (ably played by Charlotte Cochrane) is in love with tall, dark, handsome Irishman Tom Lefroy (Dominic Friedrich). Jane is simultaneously writing a novel in which Darcy (also played by Dominic Friedrich) and Lizzy Bennet (Imogen Turner) skirmish in conversation, each one attracted and repelled by the other. But when Jane and Tom fall out, she makes the fatal mistake of marrying off the fictional Lizzy to the repulsive clergyman Mr. Collins (Cameron Kennedy).

Come to see the play to see how it all works out.

There are plenty of laughs in the play, but also a sombre recognition that, in this period, marriage is the only realistic option for nearly all women. And it also seems impossible for Jane to combine marriage with novel writing.

The cast truly rises to the occasion.

Charlotte Cochrane as Jane Austen is both flirtatious and resigned, while Imogen Turner brings a quiet dignity to the part of Lizzy Bennet. Dominic Friedrich, doubling as Tom and Mr Darcy, looks the part and is charming and arrogant in turn. Cameron Kennedy is versatile, ranging from the puppyish Harris Bigg-Wither (Jane Austen’s real-life suitor) to the slimy Mr. Collins and Darcy’s cheerful friend, Mr. Bingley.
Heather Taylor’s comic turn as hypochondriac Mrs. Austen is clearly based on the fictional Mrs. Bennet and does a good job of embarrassing her daughter. Linz Wicks and Kate Davies are both convincing as elder sisters Alethea Bigg-Wither and Cassandra Austen looking out for their siblings. The most outstanding comic acting comes from Sue Borg and Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Madame Lefroy. I would love to see her Lady Bracknell!

Both costumes and set are excellent, and the dancing, central to Jane Austen’s world, is accomplished.

If you know ‘Pride and Prejudice’ you will recognise much of the comic dialogue. And if you don’t, you will still appreciate the close links between historical fact and comic fiction in the doubling of the characters.

Definitely worth seeing, and a credit to director Verity Mann.
Helen Rigby

Lizzy Darcy and Jane runs 8th-15th June. Book on 

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